The NHL’s young revival

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews is congratulated by teammate Morgan Rielly, right, for his hat trick, after scoring a goal early in the second period against the Ottawa Senators in an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, in Ottawa, Ontario. (Sean Kilpatrick/AP)

The NHL’s 2016-17 regular season began with a bang on Wednesday, Oct. 12. The first game of the season featured the highly-anticipated debut of the overall pick of the 2016 draft, Auston Matthews. Leading up to the season, there were questions as to how the 19-year-old Matthews would handle the pressure of being the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the most prestigious NHL franchises.

Matthews was quick to show that he was more than ready for his new role with the Maple Leafs. In the first period of his first professional game against the Ottawa Senators, Matthews recorded two goals, and in the second period he tallied two more times. Toronto would go on to lose the game 5-4 in overtime, but the loss was overshadowed by the best debut by a rookie in the modern era of the NHL. To date, Matthews has recorded five goals and three assists in five games.

Patrik Laine was the second overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft by the Winnipeg Jets.. While he had a solid debut that featured a goal and an assist against the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct.13, he was living in the shadow of the expectations set by the debut of Matthews the night before. On Oct. 19, Laine got the chance to step into the spotlight in a highly anticipated matchup against the Maple Leafs. The young Jets wing tallied three goals, including the overtime game winner, to help Winnipeg defeat Toronto 5-4.  Laine has recorded four goals and one assist in five goals to date.

The biggest surprise of the season thus far is probably the success of the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers, who finished with the second worst record in the NHL last season, currently sit atop the Pacific Division standings with a 5-1-0 record and a goal differential of seven. Edmonton has a roster loaded with young talent including Connor McDavid (2015’s No. 1 overall pick), Darnell Nurse (UConn women’s basketball player Kia Nurse’s older brother), Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. McDavid, the youngest team captain in NHL history, is picking up right where he left off after a rookie season. He is in a three-way tie for the NHL points leader right now with nine points (four goals, five assists) in six games.

So far the younger generation of players have been putting on a show in the NHL, and that is not something that is going to stop anytime soon.


Jonathan Dupont is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at jonathan.dupont@uconn.edu.